Tag Archives: Arvind Kejriwal

A Memorandum to Delhi Govt on Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation in North East Delhi

Date: 20/03/2020


Mr. Arvind Kejriwal

Chief Minister,

Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi


Mr. Manish Sisodia,

Deputy Chief Minister,

Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi


Subject: Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation in North East Delhi

Memorandum of Demands to the Delhi Government

The communal violence in north east Delhi that took place in the last week of February is the most disgraceful event in the recent history of the city. Scores of people have lost their lives and thousands are displaced. The observations and evidence from the last three weeks suggest that the violence was not sporadic, but was organized and targeted particularly at Muslim residents in various colonies of the area. There are serious question marks on the role of the Delhi Police during the whole affair. An unbiased and thorough investigation in the matter is necessary to bring the guilty to book.

Based on observations and initial attempts at data collection from the last three weeks, the scale of devastation (material and human costs) is understood to be huge and merits a detailed assessment. While community members have been generous in opening their homes to fleeing families and civil society efforts have tried to fill in for immediate relief, the state government needs to step in to address the concerns of the affected people. There are two reasons for this. One, the crisis is the result of a state failure and has resulted in grave deprivation among the citizenry. The state thus has a moral and administrative duty to compensate and rehabilitate those affected in a compassionate and humane way. Two, the scale of the crisis is such that only the state can address it. Civil society and community effort should not be seen as a substitute for what is the state’s responsibility. While the state government had been conspicuous by its absence in the first three days of the violence, it has been trying to coordinate relief efforts since. A comprehensive plan needs to be put in place with short, medium and long term targets for which the state must take responsibility and invite non-state actors from community organisations to individual citizens that are willing to lend support to such a state led process.

Continue reading A Memorandum to Delhi Govt on Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation in North East Delhi

Winning Delhi Elections – AAP, Gandhi and the Ideology Wars

What has Gandhi got to do with the recently concluded elections in Delhi? On the face of it nothing. But at another level, the election process, its campaign and its results – all invite us to revisit Gandhi’s stupendous moral-political project of cementing the Hindu-Muslim division with his own blood and his heroic failure. He could not prevent the Partition and ultimately fell to the bullets of a fanatic Hindu nationalist of the kind who are in power today.

I remember Gandhi today because gung-ho secularists (the political community that I inhabit, if very uncomfortably) are once again at their favourite occupation of daring Arvind Kejriwal and AAP to ‘prove’ their ‘anti-communal stance’ and all that it can mean today – as though they alone have the talisman to fight communalism. I am reminded of Gandhi because his was by far the most audacious  attempt to fight the communal menace but he too failed. He had no ready-made answers to it but had perhaps the best sense of what moved the masses of this country.

Secular warriors have been basically daring Kejriwal and AAP to do and say things that he had been avoiding doing or saying all these days. Just two instances – of the quotes below from two dear friends – should suffice to indicate what I mean.  The first is from Apoorvanand, writing in the Business Standard,

‘Voters in Delhi were confident that the AAP victory in the assembly elections wouldn’t so much as serve as an irritant to the BJP, let alone rock its boat, as the saffron outfit was firmly and safely ensconced in power. An efficient delivery boy is all the electorate wanted. In the Delhi voters mindset, an ideology-agnostic party that does not impede the BJP’s nationalist drive is tolerable.’

Continue reading Winning Delhi Elections – AAP, Gandhi and the Ideology Wars

Delhi Elections and the Difficult Terrain of Antifascist Struggle


Three incidents of firing in four days – two in Jamia Millia Islamia and one in Shaheen Bagh – quickly followed open calls to violence (‘goli maro saalon ko‘) by Union minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur and the demonization of Shaheen Bagh protesters by BJP MP Pravesh Verma (‘the protesters will enter your homes and rape and kill your daughters’ if Modi and Shah aren’t there). In the case of the Shaheen Bagh shooter, Kapil Gujjar, the Delhi Police (which has till date not managed to find out the JNU attacker Komal Sharma’s affiliation) was quick to link him to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – an allegation expressly denied by his father. All these episodes, so obviously set up, basically aimed at provoking the protesters into committing some violence that the lapdog television channels would then play up, in their usual hysterical style (some of them may even have appeared on air in police uniform!), to vitiate the atmosphere.

On the very first shooting, one such channel did indeed keep doing precisely that till long after the identity of the shooter (in the clip above) had been clearly established. The clips were circulating almost instantaneously and you can hear the gunman shouting Delhi Police zindabad, and there was little chance of mistaking him for an anti-CAA protester. The channel knew exactly what it was doing and at whose behest but kept on at it till 9 o’clock at night.

Continue reading Delhi Elections and the Difficult Terrain of Antifascist Struggle

Arvind Kejriwal, Article 370 and a Blind Alley

(Photo Courtesy : http://www.newslaundry.com)

He came, he saw and he concurred

– Caption of a RK Laxman cartoon in early 90 s


AAP’s stand on article 370 has confused and disheartened many.

For its workers the party has opened itself to attacks by its adversaries because of its support to stripping of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir and thus weakening its own plank for full statehood for Delhi which was its key slogan during the 2019 Lok Sabha campaign.

A section of its fellow-travelers who had high hopes of the experiment, activists/scholars – who were rather enthused with its ‘participatory’ approach – also feel betrayed or disheartened now.

It is a different matter that not many have made their displeasure known.

May be it is a sign of their increasing fatigue or possible cynicism with politics in general, they have preferred to share their frustrations at private levels only. Continue reading Arvind Kejriwal, Article 370 and a Blind Alley

Nationalism and Politics – An Open Letter to Arvind Kejriwal

I write this open letter to you as a well wisher, and someone who has been seriously supportive of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) through all the ups and downs in the years since its formation.  Perhaps like many others, I too have high expectations of the experiment that AAP is and the new ground it has tried to break in terms of providing a government that has steadfastly kept the interests of the common person in mind while taking decisions.

But I also write this letter because I, like many others, have been perturbed by some developments which do not augur well for the future either of your party or of the country. The latter in any case, is set on a disastrous course, thanks to the current dispensation at the Centre. Let me also make it clear right away that I am not one of those who criticize AAP for ‘lacking a clear ideology’ and I in fact value the fact that on many critical issues, AAP has been able to resist the pressure to step into well trodden, familiar responses to specific situations and issues – especially well trodden among Leftists. But I do think that AAP needs to think a bit more seriously  about politics – which is not the same thing as ideology.

Continue reading Nationalism and Politics – An Open Letter to Arvind Kejriwal

Rainbow Social Coalition – To What End ?

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USS passe rani hai, iss passe Gandhi!
(“On that side is the Queen, on this is Gandhi)

Nawan Punjab Party’s candidate ex MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi’s election campaign and the way he projected his appeal as ‘battle against the royals’ had rightly evoked interest in a section of the media as well as pro-people circles.(https://www.newsclick.in/electoral-mobilisation-vehicle-rainbow-social-coalition)

It is of interest to know that in this era of money and muscle power politics the campaign was largely run on support generated by people. What is also notable (-do-) that the campaign was successful in building a social coalition – cutting across various fissures in our society – and could challenge “populist fascism of the Bharatiya Janata Party, patronage-based populism of the Congress, and a fractious identity politics of SAD which cannot see beyond its narrow aims. “. Continue reading Rainbow Social Coalition – To What End ?

The Elephant in the Room – Silence on Class Issues in Indian Politics : Sanjay Kumar

Guest Post by SANJAY KUMAR

Ramesh has been working as a daily wager in a Government of India office in Delhi for ten years. He is one of the army of peons, office assistants, security guards, gardeners, and cleaning staff which government offices, city municipalities, hospitals, schools and colleges of the metropolis employ regularly. He is a graduate, but gets the wage of an unskilled worker. He is among the fortunate ones who at least get government mandated minimum wage. Most private employers in the city violate the minimum wage act; either they pay less than the mandated amount, or make daily wagers work more than eight hours without any overtime.

Ramesh was pleasantly surprised this April when he noted a more than 30% increase in his wages. His daily wage that stood at Rs 360/ earlier was now Rs 513/. This was due to a Government of Delhi notification issued on 3rd March, 2017. The news was covered in the inner pages of some newspapers. Most TV news channels ignored it. Hence, it is not surprising that employees like Ramesh who are not associated with any organsiation of workers were not aware of this increase. Continue reading The Elephant in the Room – Silence on Class Issues in Indian Politics : Sanjay Kumar

ज़ी न्यूज़ के पापों से घिन आ रही थी, प्रोड्यूसर विश्वदीपक ने दिया इस्तीफ़ा !

ज़ी न्यूज़ के पत्रकार विश्वदीपक ने ज़ी न्यूज़ से इस्तीफ़ा दे दिया. ज़ी न्यूज़ को लिखा उनका ख़त पढ़ने लायक़ है. मीडिया विजिल.कॉम  से साभार. An English translation of this piece is available at Scroll.in.

प्रिय ज़ी न्यूज़,

एक साल 4 महीने और 4 दिन बाद अब वक्त आ गया है कि मैं अब आपसे अलग हो जाऊं. हालांकि ऐसा पहले करना चाहिए था लेकिन अब भी नहीं किया तो खुद को कभी माफ़ नहीं कर सकूंगा.

आगे जो मैं कहने जा रहा हूं वो किसी भावावेश, गुस्से या खीझ का नतीज़ा नहीं है, बल्कि एक सुचिंतित बयान है. मैं पत्रकार होने से साथ-साथ उसी देश का एक नागरिक भी हूं जिसके नाम अंध ‘राष्ट्रवाद’ का ज़हर फैलाया जा रहा है और इस देश को गृहयुद्ध की तरफ धकेला जा रहा है. मेरा नागरिक दायित्व और पेशेवर जिम्मेदारी कहती है कि मैं इस ज़हर को फैलने से रोकूं. मैं जानता हूं कि मेरी कोशिश नाव के सहारे समुद्र पार करने जैसी है लेकिन फिर भी मैं शुरुआत करना चहता हूं. इसी सोच के तहत JNUSU अध्यक्ष कन्हैया कुमार के बहाने शुरू किए गए अंध राष्ट्रवादी अभियान और उसे बढ़ाने में हमारी भूमिका के विरोध में मैं अपने पद से इस्तीफा देता हूं. मैं चाहता हूं इसे बिना किसी वैयक्तिक द्वेष के स्वीकार किया जाए.

असल में बात व्यक्तिगत है भी नहीं. बात पेशेवर जिम्मेदारी की है. सामाजिक दायित्वबोध की है और आखिर में देशप्रेम की भी है. मुझे अफसोस के साथ कहना पड़ रहा है कि इन तीनों पैमानों पर एक संस्थान के तौर पर तुम तुमसे जुड़े होने के नाते एक पत्रकार के तौर पर मैं पिछले एक साल में कई बार फेल हुए.

मई 2014 के बाद से जब से श्री नरेन्द्र मोदी भारत के प्रधानमंत्री बने हैं, तब से कमोबेश देश के हर न्यूज़ रूम का सांप्रदायीकरण (Communalization) हुआ है लेकिन हमारे यहां स्थितियां और भी भयावह हैं. माफी चाहता हूं इस भारी भरकम शब्द के इस्तेमाल के लिए लेकिन इसके अलावा कोई और दूसरा शब्द नहीं है. आखिर ऐसा क्यों होता है कि ख़बरों को मोदी एंगल से जोड़कर लिखवाया जाता है ? ये सोचकर खबरें लिखवाई जाती हैं कि इससे मोदी सरकार के एजेंडे को कितना गति मिलेगी ?

Continue reading ज़ी न्यूज़ के पापों से घिन आ रही थी, प्रोड्यूसर विश्वदीपक ने दिया इस्तीफ़ा !

Evening out the Odds, Learning from the BRT Fiasco

The Chief Minister of Delhi has come out with a very practical idea, an Idea, whose time has come as the American would say. Anyone who says that Delhi’s air is a killer is only putting it mildly. The number of those dying of respiratory ailments on a daily basis stands today at 23, this translates to 161 per week, 644 per month and 7728 per year. The figures were half this 4 years ago.

Even if pollution levels do not worsen in future the cumulative effects of exposure to these high levels of pollution will keep pushing up the death rate and increasingly it will be the kids born today who will grow into wheezing asthmatics, inhaling this deadly cocktail of pollutants increasingly becoming unfit, as they grow, for doing anything that calls for even mild exertions. The resultant costs on medical expenses incurred by their families, in the face of the rapid withdrawal of government spend on public health will assume the shape of a horror movie gone real and it can only get worse unless something is done and done fast. Read the full article, published in Catch News, here

The Indiscreet charm of Narendra Modi: Joyojeet Pal

Guest post by Joyojeet Pal

Why the Silicon Valley (Generally) Loves Narendra Modi

“Indians are the most prosperous group in the United States of America,” said comedian Rajiv Satyal, the compère of the Narendra Modi speech at the San Jose Arena in the Silicon Valley on Sept. 27. No flash of Gandhian embarrassment stood in the way of the booming cheer that followed. Later on when repeated technical bungling (ironic next to the tech bombast of the setting) led the compère to step back on stage, he kept repeating this idea alongside “Bharat Mata ki Jai!” to keep the ardor up among the 17,000-strong crowd. There appeared to be a few thousand more outside, either supporting or protesting the event. Several U.S. legislators were present, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Continue reading The Indiscreet charm of Narendra Modi: Joyojeet Pal

An inability to grieve

Sarcasm in the  moment of death? For this you need to be evil. For, the first human reaction to death is silence. Even in the case of a normal death. It suddenly reminds us of our own mortality. Impermanence of our existence. When death is not normal, when it is an accident, a suicide or a murder, it shocks us. Or, it should. A life cut short unnaturally creates a void in us. A sense of unfulfillment. And our gaze turns inwards. We tend to become reflective. Words do not come easily to you. On  most of the occasions they sound false, even obscene. Therefore, we console the grieving not though words but by touching them. It is not easy to make sense of death, in whichever form it strikes us. Continue reading An inability to grieve

The Sin and the Error : Ravi Sinha

Guest Post by RAVI SINHA

…it takes an error to father a sin. ─ J. Robert Oppenheimer[1]

Future historians of India may well describe the past year as a year of political sin. This was the year in which the man who had earlier presided over the Gujarat Carnage was awarded the ultimate prize. The year saw an election that touched a new low marked by shallowness, vulgarities and lies – in no small measure by the labors of the man himself. Equally appalling have been the exertions of a large class of literati and glitterati to portray philistinism and inanities spouted by the most powerful mouth as wisdom of a visionary leader.

An entire country seems to have gone blind – unable to see that the emperor has no clothes. In this age of incessant television it should be obvious to anyone that the supreme leader does not carry conviction even when enunciating relatively higher banalities. He is at his natural best only when he mocks someone as a shehzada or slanders and vilifies an entire community through phrases such as ame paanch, amara pachees. It is an irony of history that the republic which had Nehru as its first prime minister has one now for whom even common mythology is too cerebral. He must vulgarize Pushpak Viman and Ganesha and reduce them to quackeries of aviation and surgery.

Misfortune of the nation goes beyond the man. Forces of the diabolic housed in the hydra-headed Parivaar can now accomplish the impossible. They can now occupy the political center stage without leaving off the lunatic fringe. They can adopt Gandhi without renouncing Godse; erect world’s tallest statue of a leader who had punished their forefathers for assassinating Gandhi; even co-opt Bhagat Singh without batting an eyelid about what he stood for and what he had to say about ideologies like theirs. They can further refine the art of doublespeak. Their “statesmen” can pave the way for corporate plunder and call it sab ka vikas (development for all). Their “ideologues” can advocate sab ka saath (inclusion of all) by exhorting Hindu women to give birth to a minimum of four children each, lest Hindus are reduced to a minority “in their own country”. Continue reading The Sin and the Error : Ravi Sinha

जीत की राजनीति की जीत

आम आदमी पार्टी में  जो कुछ भी हुआ उससे वे ही हैरान हैं जो पार्टियों की अंदरूनी ज़िंदगी के बारे में कभी विचार नहीं करते. किसी भी पार्टी में कभी भी नेतृत्व के प्रस्ताव से अलग दूसरा प्रस्ताव शायद ही कबूल  होता हो .कम्युनिस्ट पार्टियों पर नेतृत्व की तानाशाही का आरोप लगता रहा है लेकिन कांग्रेस हो या कोई भी और पार्टी, नेतृत्व के खिलाफ खड़े होने की कीमत उस दल के सदस्यों को पता है. ऐसे अवसर दुर्लभ हैं जब नेतृत्व की इच्छा से स्वतंत्र या उसके विरुद्ध कोई प्रस्ताव स्वीकार किया गया हो. जब ऐसा होता है तो नेतृत्व के बदलने की शुरुआत हो जाती है.

भारत में पार्टियों के आतंरिक जीवन का अध्ययन नहीं के बराबर हुआ है.ऐसा क्यों नहीं होता  कि निर्णयकारी समितियों के सदस्य खुलकर, आज़ादी और हिम्मत के साथ अपनी बात कह सकें? यह अनुभव उन सबका है जो पार्टियों में भिन्न मत रखते ही ‘डिसिडेंट’ घोषित कर दिए जाते हैं.यह भी समिति की बैठक के दौरान जो उनके खिलाफ वोट दे चुके हैं वे अक्सर बाहर आकर कहते हैं कि आप तो ठीक ही कह रहे थे लेकिन हम क्या करते!  हमारी मजबूरी तो आप समझते ही हैं ! Continue reading जीत की राजनीति की जीत

AAP’s Divide & Rule: Satya Sagar

Guest post by Satya Sagar

While the Indian media goes ballistic over the possibility of a split in the Aam Aadmi Party and ardent supporters stand demoralised, for me this is probably the best news I have heard since the party’s historic win in the recent Delhi assembly elections. I love anything with ‘splittist tendencies’.

The reason is simple. For anyone even vaguely familiar with the nature of living systems, particularly microbial life (and this is a bacterial planet we live on) one of its fundamental characteristics is ‘divide and rule’. Let me explain in more detail, before Markandeya Katju accuses me of being a ‘British agent’.

Basically, anything that possesses life, propagates and spreads its influence only through the process of splitting itself repeatedly till it finds its true balance within the larger ecosystem. All of evolution is possible only because of the constant churning, that results in repeated mutation of basic genetic structures, from which the most durable and relevant ones survive.

Lifeless, inanimate objects on the other hand, by definition, do not possess any internal contradictions and can move around only when pushed by external forces. In political terms it is simple to understand this point – when was the last time the Congress, BJP or for that matter CPI or CPM split anywhere?  If there is no opinion at all, there can’t be a ‘difference of opinion’ too. Continue reading AAP’s Divide & Rule: Satya Sagar

Reading the Power Struggle in AAP

There is no way of discussing the ongoing crisis in AAP without being blunt and frank. The terrain of politics is, after all, a brutal and treacherous one. So let me put it without mincing words. The ongoing crisis in AAP is not just about ‘differences of opinion’ or ‘toleration of dissent’ but a power struggle. And before squeamish liberal stomachs start churning, let me also add – power struggles are not always only about power in and of itself. Sometimes they are, but quite often they have to do with alternative visions, imaginations and of course, contrary interests. It is only likely that every serious political party or organization will, if it has any life in it, be faced with a struggle over any or all of these matters, for what is politics if not about steering the party/ movement in the direction one understands to be the best course. And these alternative visions, imaginations, policies and interests are inseparable from the position of individual personalities involved. Individual ambitions are pretty much the stuff of politics and it is unrealistic to expect to see a politics without all of this. The will to power is not exactly a self-effacing virtue.

For this reason, factions and platforms are inevitable in all political formations and it is best to recognize them as legitimate entities and have open public debate, on matters at stake. These cannot be matters of concern to only a small group of leaders in the National Executive and Political Affairs Committee (in AAP’s case) or in Politburos and Central Committees (in the case of communist parties). So, if collective deliberations are important in the apex committees, they would do well to be preceded by a public debate among different tendencies within the organization. At one level, this means moving away from the party-form itself to the form of a platform or coalition, where the different groupings and ideological currents are honestly and openly recognized, as are the personal inclinations and angularities of each individual leader.

This longish preface should make it very clear that my concerns here have nothing to do with the usual liberal platitudes about ‘amicably and democratically’ resolving ‘difference of opinion’. A political movement or party is not an academic seminar. Every such struggle, in the final analysis, is a power struggle – so is the current one in AAP. And there can be no doubt that both sides in this conflict are deeply involved in it. Decoding the stakes in the absence of a clear public debate, apart from selective leaks in the press, is not an easy task. But it does not involve rocket science either. One can read the signs, one can read between the lines of the narratives from both sides that have emerged, howsoever partially, in the media. What follows below, though, is a reading quite different from the ones inundating the media about intolerance of dissent. Continue reading Reading the Power Struggle in AAP

Peace, bread and politics of AAP: Satya Sagar

Guest post by SATYA SAGAR

Among the epithets, most frequently hurled at Arvind Kejriwal by the BJP, in the run up to the Delhi assembly elections, were ‘anarchist’, closely followed by ‘urban naxal’. What is it about AAP that threatens the Sangh Parivar to a point of exhibiting such great hysteria and anxiety?

AAP, despite some novelties, is after all a very mainstream political formation, operating completely within the ambit of the Indian Constitution and no pretensions of turning the system upside down?Is there something deeper happening here?

One possibility is of course that, in its name-calling, the BJP presumed the average Delhi voter would run scared, straight into the waiting arms of Papa Modi[1]. In that case then, it was obviously a complete misreading of the public mood of anger and defiance against established national parties. Continue reading Peace, bread and politics of AAP: Satya Sagar

AAP Victory and the Challenges of a New Politics

Let me say it once again, the AAP victory cannot be understood outside the post-ideological moment. I have argued earlier on Kafila (here and here), that one of the key features of AAP was its post-ideological character – one that moved relentlessly beyond many verities of 20th century ideologies and binaries like state versus market, or religious/communal versus secular and so forth. To reiterate, this formation represents the spirit of the moment that is itself post-ideological.

At Ramlila maidan, courtesy New Indian Express
At Ramlila maidan, courtesy New Indian Express

But it is also time perhaps, to underline that post-ideological does not mean post-political. At least, not any longer. There is no doubt that a politics of AAP is gradually and clearly coming into view – but it is a politics whose edifice is being built from the bottom up. It does not derive from any settled ideological blueprint that comes ready-made – a blueprint around which a politics is then sought to be constructed. That was the project of all 20th century ideologies, which had already divided the world into neat camps and made the divisions into permanent battle lines. Ideologies became repositories of Truth – universal and unchanging, taking away from politics the very contingency and fluidity that defines it. Ideology, in other words, was fundamentally anti-political. In parenthesis, it may be relevant to point out that that is why, perhaps, Marx himself celebrated the Paris Commune by underlining that the workers “had no ideals to realize, no blueprints to which the world must conform”; they merely had to set free the new forces that were challenging the old order. Socialism in the 19th century was not yet an ideology in that sense. Continue reading AAP Victory and the Challenges of a New Politics

Excitotoxins and MSG. (Or, the Modi Style of Governance)


Prime Minister Elect of the world’s largest democracy arrives at the airport in New Delhi

Image Ravi Kanojia, Indian Express May 18, 2014

Circulating on Facebook for two days, and still unreported in mainstream media, is the story of overjoyed BJP workers attacking two mosques in Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha constituency. Inebriated saffron activists, raising Hara-Hara Modi slogans, attacked two Masjids in separate places of the district on May 16th, after the poll results were announced.

The BJP activists also tried to harm the Imam of Muhiyuddin Juma Masjid, but he managed to escape from the hands of the miscreants.

Meanwhile, another group of miscreants, believed to be BJP activists, reportedly pelted stones at a Masjid in Suralpady near Kaikamba under the limits of Bajpe police station.

Today’s Hindu reports that a Muslim chicken stall owner was beaten up by a gang at Hoode village.

Mr. Ais told The Hindu that he was cooking food, for nearly 400 students at a nearby school, when seven persons came on four motorcycles asked for him with his daughter Ayesha at around 4.30 p.m. They later pushed her and came to him and asked if he was present when a victory procession [of the Bharatiya Janata Party] was taken out on May 16, to which he replied in the negative. They then beat him up.

But none of this muck sticks to the Teflon visage of Modi, ever. Continue reading Excitotoxins and MSG. (Or, the Modi Style of Governance)

On Religion and Politics: Ravi Sinha

Guest Post by Ravi Sinha

This note is inspired by Subhash Gatade and Aditya Nigam. Subhash wrote a piece, “AK versus NaMo” that appeared on Kafila a few days ago and Aditya made a fairly detailed comment on it underlining the need to have “a proper debate on this issue”. It is foolhardy for me to rush where angels fear to tread. There have been celebrated debates on this in the scholarly circles and, just as phenomena “debate” theories about themselves in their own ways, Indian polity debates this issue all the time. How to make sense of such a tangled issue that fills libraries and unleashes periodic havocs in real life, and that too in a short note? Why even try?

My excuse comes, perhaps, from my ignorance. Many of the axioms of such a debate – e.g. church-state separation was specific to the west and even there it hasn’t worked; religion can never be separated from politics; such a separation, if it were to happen, would exclude the believers from the polity; in a multi-religious society only the maxim of “Sarva Dharma Samabhav” can be the desirable policy of the state; etc – do not appear obvious or acceptable to me. I hope to dispel the notion that my incredulity towards such maxims, and towards the Gandhian-communitarian-postcolonialist-postmodern attitudes in general, originate in my being a run-of-the-mill leftist belonging to the “now defunct Left” who refuses to see that the “communist model” to deal with such issues “has virtually no takers”. I do not share with Aditya an approach towards the Left, but that does not mean that I do not have issues with the latter. It seems to me that it manages an awkward feat of limping on both the legs – one leg is afflicted with dogma and the other with populism. But the other side – the Gandhian-communitarian-postcolonialist-postmodern side – appears even more challenged. Despite its erudition on the one hand and a practical-realist approach on the other, when it comes to actual walking in the political arena, it chooses to walk on one leg only – that of populism. Continue reading On Religion and Politics: Ravi Sinha

बर्धन, ममता और मोदी

चुनाव के अनंतिम चरण के ठीक पहले भारतीय कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी के नेता ए. बी. बर्धन का बयान आया कि उनकी पार्टी नरेंद्र मोदी को सत्तासीन होने से रोकने के लिए ममता बनर्जी का साथ भी दे सकती है.बाद में इसकी कुछ सफाई भी दी गई लेकिन यह बयान अपने आप में बहुत महत्वपूर्ण है.उसके कुछ पहले कांग्रेस पार्टी की ओर से यह इशारा आया था कि चुनाव के बाद,ज़रूरी हुआ तो वह तीसरे मोर्चे की सरकार को समर्थन दे सकती है. बाद में उसके नेता राहुल गांधी ने इसका खंडन कर दिया. इन दोनों ही वक्तव्यों पर कुछ बात करने की आवश्यकता है.उसके पहले बनारस की कुछ बात कर ली जाए. Continue reading बर्धन, ममता और मोदी

Two days with AAP in Banaras

‘Varanasi’ is only the official name. Sometimes, to make a poetic point, someone may say Kashi.   But ‘Banaras’ is how Banarasis refer to their city.

Banaras ki parampara, they say. Or hum Banaras ke musalman.

Kaal Bhairav Banaras ke kotwal hain, says the mahant of the Shitala Mata temple. Kaal Bhairav (Shiva) is the keeper of the gates of Banaras.

And of course, Banaras ki chaat khaayi hai aapne? Banaras ka paan nahin khayenge?

do seet

Sticker on wall of home in Rajmandir, a Hindu locality (All pictures by JAMAL KIDWAI)

My old friend and comrade Jamal Kidwai and I were in Banaras to observe the AAP campaign, being supporters of AAP (me) and of Arvind Kejriwal in Banaras (Jamal), and to hang out with the (largely young) volunteers who have landed up – from IT and advertising, from colleges and small government jobs, from Bangalore and Mumbai, from Madhya Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh – to map Banaras with their feet. So this does not purport to be an objective account – unlike journalists’ accounts of the ‘Modi wave’, which do claim to be purely factual. As Professor Randhir Singh is fond of reminding us – in Paris in 1968, the first question the students would hurl at all speakers was always – “Where do you speak from?” Continue reading Two days with AAP in Banaras